A Houston-Doha Partnership: Leveraging Local Assets to Create a Global Enterprise

By Spangler, Mary S.; Tyler, Art | International Educator, September/October 2011 | Go to article overview

A Houston-Doha Partnership: Leveraging Local Assets to Create a Global Enterprise


Spangler, Mary S., Tyler, Art, International Educator


EVERY INSTITUTION HAS ASSETS THAT MAKE IT SPECIAL. Knowing and then using these assets to advance a colleges vision and mission differentiate top-achieving colleges from the ordinary ones. Houston Community College (HCC) has been especially fortunate to have characteristics enabling us to incrementally develop successful global partnerships since 2001 with Vietnam, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia. The most recent partnership, and the subject of this article, is an agreement with the Supreme Education Council (SEC) of Qatar to assist and support the Community College of Qatar (CCQ).

Of course, the primary mi~sron of ally U.S. cornmunity college is to otter the broadest access to high-quality educ.itn'n to prepare learners to achieve their fullest potential in todays knowledge-based society. However. it should not be limited to the local areas the college serves or confined to the thinking of any single group. Although HCC isa tax-supported institution, and strongly grounded in its community. HCC must transcend those bonds and embrace the broader marketplace's global, technological world. Toward this end. HCC has become one of the first two-year postsecondary institutions to capitalize on our inherent assets and expand our reach to share our knowledge through global partnerships.

Leveraging Natural Connections

HCC's most recent international partnership is with Qatar, a small but formidable country in the Middle East. At first glance, this relationship seems unlikely and mismatched-a community college in the United States and a sovereign monarchy 9.000 miles away-connecting to engage in an educational enterprise.

HCC is a six-college individually accredited system offering academic learning and workforce skill development to more than 75.000 students in the greater Houston area. Ranked first with 8,157 international students among nearly 1,200 U.S. community colleges, according to the report by the International Institute of Educations's Open Doors 2009 report. HCC enrolls students from more than 120 countries.

Considering that Houston was built on a wildcat spirit of drilling for oil, the location of HCC in a city that shares the energy sector as an economic driver, similar to Qatar, the choice of the nation partnering with HCC may not seem so arbitrary after all. And today, Houston has a more diverse economic base than the energy sector. After near-disastrous fluctuations in the energy sector during the 1970s, the city learned to diversify, and the economy is now supported by the worlds largest medical center, a significant financial and commodity trading center, and one of the world's largest transportation nodes. Houston is the international center for energy, finance, and space exploration. As a major airline hub, Houston's two airports create nonstop portals to three continents-Europe, South America, and the Middle East/Asia. Houston also has the third, soon to be the second, largest port, shipping and logistics center in the United States. Oil and gas, however, are the primary economic pillar that unites the city with the global economy.

In building a partnership between two different regions, one must consider what assets each partner has to make the partnership successful. HCC s reputation is at stake, and with respect to HCC in Qatar, the reputation of Houston is also on the line. Failure is not an option. Houston's economy is literally affected by decisions made in Doha, Qatar. Qatar is building one of only three liquid natural gas ship terminals in the world-near Houston. This project will create thousands of new jobs and the need and opportunity for training in Houston. The country's five-star airline. Qatar Airways, flies daily nonstops between Houston and Doha. Between the two cities there is ongoing trade, an increase of more than $270 million in the last few years, and renewed discussions of becoming "sisters." Clearly, energy and finance, jobs and transportation, connect these two metropolises. …

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